If successfully implemented, it’s the strategy that can lead to a fantasy title. The problem, however, is that choosing the right players to buy low is easier said than done. I tend to pay most attention to track record, as over the long haul, a player’s stat line, particularly that of a hitter, should roughly resemble his career averages. But, this approach doesn’t always work, as the player could simply be having a bad year, and there are always those outlier seasons.
In Mixed Tout Wars, I just completed a trade in which one of the guys heading my way is Billy Butler. I’ve never been a huge fan of Butler due to his sub-par home run production, as he’s reached the 20-homer plateau just twice in his seven big league seasons. But he’s always posted high on-base totals (.361 career OBP), and the fact that his OBP sits at an uninspiring .323 through 95 games this season suggests that a stat correction is a distinct possibility. And, for me, that would be a very good thing, as the OBP standings distribution is very tight. So this was a category-based decision, with the most important factor being that Butler’s trade value is at an all-time low right now, and I targeted him as someone who could net me a decent profit if things break right.
Who are some other intriguing buy-low options as we embark upon the unofficial second half of the 2014 campaign? Glad you asked. Let’s take a trip around the diamond.
C Brian McCann – Arguably a top-5 fantasy backstop heading into the season, McCann is batting a meager .240 through 87 games and is on pace to fall short of the 20-home run mark for the first time since 2007. But he’s hitting .340 with a .818 OPS so far in July.
1B Nick Swisher – The streaky slugger was as cold as can be through the first three months of the season, with a .192 average and a grand total of five homers and 25 RBI. July has been a different story, as he’s batting .293 with three home runs and 15 RBI. Keep in mind that Swish has hit at least 21 homers in each of his nine full big league seasons.
2B Dustin Pedroia – Starting to show improvement (.305 AVG in July) following a mediocre start to the season, but four homers and two steals through 95 games simply doesn’t cut it, and his .277 AVG is a far cry from his .300 career mark. Still, he’s less than a year removed from elite fantasy second baseman status. I haven’t given up on him.
SS J.J. Hardy – You drafted him for his high-end power production from the shortstop position but have so far gotten four homers through 88 games. Go figure. But that doesn’t change the fact that he averaged more than 25 homers per season over the previous three years. Like Swisher, Hardy is streaky. Those home runs could come in bunches.
3B Chase Headley – His 2012 breakout season can now be safely called an anomaly, but I expected Headley to easily improve upon last year’s .250-13-50 line. He still might, but it will be close, especially in the batting average department, where he needs to make up significant ground. The good news is that he’s hitting .333 in July. He’s recently gone back to his old grip of the bat. Perhaps that’s done the trick. The window to acquire him at a discount is closing fast.
OF Carlos Gonzalez – Injuries have always been Car-Go’s chief nemesis, and this year has been no different. But he’s healthy again now and he’s usually pretty good when healthy. That said, Gonzalez owners might be so fed up with the injuries along with his disappointing .253 average this year that they could be willing to sell him at a discount. How about Nelson Cruz for Gonzalez? Interesting, right? That is, interesting, but risky.
OF Shin-Soo Choo – Outside of a strong OBP, he’s done very little to help his fantasy owners this year. Matching last season’s 21 homers seems unlikely and he isn’t running at all (three steals in six attempts). But he’s a proven across-the-board fantasy producer, so trying to get him at a bargain rate can’t hurt. Playing half of his games at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark doesn’t hurt either.
OF Carlos Beltran – His stint in pinstripes has so far been a disaster, but much of the blame can be attributed to injuries. Now that he’s recovered from his latest malady, a concussion, Beltran will look to get his season back on track. Four hits in eight at-bats since the break with a homer and two RBI is a nice way to start. In one of my 12-team mixed leagues, he’s currently on the waiver wire.
SP Matt Cain – He’s been a longtime fantasy favorite of mine, so maybe my judgment is clouded, and I can’t really find any stats to prove the theory that his 2014 struggles are a fluke. So instead, I’ll mention his 1.86 ERA over his last three starts and hope that’s a convincing enough reason to target him in a trade.
RP Sergio Romo – Since being removed from the closer role back on June 29th, Romo has been shaky, tossing 6 1/3 innings, allowing four runs and striking out nine. Santiago Casilla has yet to allow a run as the ninth inning fill-in for the Giants, so it might take some time for Romo to reclaim his old job. But I think Bruce Bochy’s preference all along has been to eventually go back to Romo. If he’s on waivers in your league and you have an open bench spot, picking up the former top-tier stopper could pay off.
That’s exactly what I did. And it was in an NL-only league.
Talk about buying low.